The Blue Heron opens alongside Crust Simply Italian in Gilbert

Crust Simply Italian continues their expansion with their newest location in the Verde at Cooley Station development in Gilbert. With the new opening comes the new speakeasy themed cocktail bar, The Blue Heron. It’s not owner Mike Merendino’s first dual concept as his Chandler location of Crust also houses The Ostrich cocktail bar downstairs.

“We have been looking in Gilbert for some time now, and when we found the Verde project in Cooley Station we fell in love with the neighborhood,” says owner Merendino. A Mesa location is expected to open in mid-2023.

The East Coast Italian restaurant serves up classic dishes and pizza Merendino used to make in his father’s pizzeria on New York’s Long Island. Authentic pasta dishes, Italian style Rustica shaped pizza’s and craft cocktails are signature to Crust. Happy hour happens Monday -Friday from 3- 6p.m. and offers specials on their popular appetizers and cocktails.

“Crust Simply Italian is looking forward to serving the local Gilbert community with delicious authentic East Coast Italian food! We want our customers to come in as friends and to walk away feeling like family!” says Merendino.

“Dealer’s Choice” at The Blue Heron

The Blue Heron specializes in craft cocktails and the popular “dealer’s choice” cocktail. The “dealer’s choice” is perfect for those aren’t sure what they want to drink so the bartenders create custom cocktails based on the customer’s preference of ingredients. Merendino continues his Birds of a Feather theme in naming The Blue Heron, a native bird to Arizona. Doors open daily at 5 p.m.

Both Gilbert locations offer catering and have space for private dining and events. Crust opens daily at 11 a.m. and is at 2470 S Recker Rd #101,Gilbert AZ 85296.

Enjoy my podcast Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.

 

 

Sips & Bites: News you can use from the Phoenix restaurant community

Quick sips & bites of news about what’s going on around the Phoenix restaurant community, breweries and wineries.

The Ostrich brings in new talent for new craft cocktails

The downtown Chandler speakeasy starts a new era in announcing 5 new hires. They welcomed Craft Operations Manager Tyler Zhorne, Craft Bar Manager Jared Ammon, lead bartender Samantha Dengler, bartender Adam Slaton and server Tyler Yenkala to the team. With the new hires comes a new reverse happy hour to accommodate hospitality employees and collaborations with other local bars and restaurants for events & specials.

Society by EVO opens for dinner tonight in Tempe

Announced in January, Society by EVO opens tonight night at 4p.m. according to co-founder Nick Neuman’s Facebook page. The hip & high energy restaurant in Tempe will serve top notch cocktails and food until 1:30 a.m. every night. The menu will feature popular dishes from Neuman’s Scottsdale restaurant EVO along with new Mediterranean influenced dishes. A grand opening is scheduled for next Friday, March 25th.

Mother Road Brewing & Rombauer Vineyards battle it out at Zuzu

It’s beer vs. wine at the Hotel Valley Ho’s Versus Series Dinner next Thursday, March 24th. Seats are still available for when the Flagstaff brewer meets the popular Napa Valley winery paired with Chef Russell LaCasce’s has special four course menu. Seats are $159 ++ per person and you can make a reservation by calling 480-421-7997

Mesquite Fresh Street Mex opens new location in Gilbert

The newest location opens Saturday March 19th is the first that is walk-up and drive-thru only for the locally owned fast casual concept. During the grand opening a “Golden Ticket” promotion will give free burritos for a year to several winners. The new location is at 4875 S. Val Vista Dr.

The James Beard Foundation narrows down list of Award finalist.

The list of 15 Arizona nominees was whittled down to 4 finalists for the June 13th awards ceremony.

Outstanding Restaurateur– Chris Bianco, Tratto, Pane Bianco, and Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix

Best New Restaurant- Bacanora, Phoenix

Outstanding Baker- Don Guerra, Barrio Bread, Tucson, AZ

Best Chef: Southwest- Giovanni Scorzo, Andreoli Italian Grocer, Scottsdale, AZ

Don’t forget to check out my podcast Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.

Crust Simply Italian to open 3rd location with more planned

Authentic Italian food continues to be one of the most popular segments of the restaurant industry and its going to continue if Mike Merendino has his way. He’s the owner of Crust Simply Italian, the restaurant he started in 2007 in Scottsdale. Merendino, a first generation Italian-American plans to open his third location in mid-2022 in Gilbert with as many as 8 more around Arizona.

He opened a second location, in downtown Chandler location a few years back along with The Ostrich, his speakeasy cocktail bar which will also open in Gilbert. The Ostrich serves classic cocktails such as an Old Fashioned and an Aviation along with creative signature cocktails as well.

Crust Simply Italian
Owner Mike Merendino. Photos courtesy of J. Martin Harris Travel & Leisure Photography

Merendino knows what it takes to run an Italian restaurant as he grew up in his father’s pizzeria on New York’s Long Island. He attributes this to why he’s seen increased sales in the last year as other restaurants have struggled. A wide variety of dishes on the menu with many entrees under $20 is one of the reasons for Crust Simply Italian’s success. “We took off some of the higher-end menu items and focused on what we do well: chicken Parmesan, pizza and lasagna,” Merendino said. “We also really stepped up our salads and lighter Italian fare.” The restaurant also caters private parties and corporate events which has also helped the restaurants bottom line.

Merendino gives credit to his investors who believed in him and gave him the resources to hire and train a great staff who he treats like family. Without those investors and their confidence he doesn’t feel he’d be able to expand to more locations in the coming years. Crust Simply Italian opens daily at 11 a.m. and The Ostrich opens at 6 p.m. during the week and at 5 p.m. on Friday and is closed on Monday’s. The Gilbert location will be at the corner of Williams Field and Recker Roads.

 

Cocktail Crawl your way through downtown Chandler

Spirit House, SanTan Brewing Company’s cocktail lounge in downtown Chandler is the starting point for a Cocktail Crawl visiting other local cocktail bars nearby. Saturday November 16th guests will then visit The Local, Puro Cigar Bar and The Ostrich to sip on cocktails and taste small bites from each.

With the growth of downtown Chandler it’s hard to visit all the new bars and restaurants so this is a novel idea. Crawlers will have the option to choose from 3 cocktails at each location that will be made with SanTan Spirits. Cocktails to choose from are……

French 75- featuring Saint Anne’s Citrus Rose Gin

Highball – featuring Saint Anne’s Limeleaf Botanical Vodka

Old Fashioned – featuring the award winning Sacred Stave American Single Malt Whiskey

Crawlers can start at 4, 5 or 6 p.m. at Spirit House. The Cocktail Crawl is a 21 and over event is $55 per person. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.santanbrewing.com/crawl

Spirit House is at 8 S. San Marcos Pl. Chandler.

 

Fall ingredients and a nursery rhyme make for new Fall cocktails at The Ostrich in Chandler

A nursery rhyme is not the only place you’ll find the Butcher, the Baker & the Candlestick maker but on the new Fall cocktail menu at The Ostrich created by beverage director & mixoloigist Brandon Casey, just in time for the fall. Using locally sourced ingredients such as figgy pudding bitters, desert blossom honey syrup and mulling spices, Casey brings to life classic cocktails for the new Fangled Fall menu as the seasons begin to change.

Photo courtesy of The Ostrich
Photo courtesy of The Ostrich

casey’s inspiration

Casey says he is  “Drawing inspiration from classic cocktails and breathing autumn life into them, these redesigned classics pay homage to their roots while embracing new and local ingredients. The new cocktail menu features spirits from all over the world paired with local ingredients to help both reach their ultimate potential.  We’ve married sweet, smoke, spice and citric to create a collection of drinks that are perfect for fall.”

Photo courtesy of The Ostrich
Photo courtesy of The Ostrich

The ostrich and Rub a dub dub

The nursery rhyme “Rub a Dub Dub” dates back to the late 17th century when 3 townsfolk head out-of-town with dubious intentions and upon their return a bath was much-needed. Several cocktails on the menu are inspired by this story so much so patrons will enjoy theatrical entertainment with their cocktails. Below are a few of the new cocktails….

The Butcher – an inspired cobbler. Lagavulin 16, Don Zoilo Amontillado, spiced stone fruit syrup, served over cut ice with a cherry mint bouquet

 The Baker – a fall inspired whisky sour. Bulleit Rye, Montenegro Amaro, Cocktail and Son’s King Cake Syrup, AZBL Figgy Pudding bitters, lemon juice, egg white.

 The Candlestick Maker – a Mezcal riff on a last world. Montelobos Joven, Caskwerk’s Apple Pie, Yellow Chartruese, lemon juice. With dehydrated mulling spice.

 Under the Norman Sun – simply the best Sazerac you’ll ever drink. VSOP Calvados, Rye, desert blossom honey syrup, AZBL Orange Sunshine, Peychaud’s, Pernod Absinthe Rinse, lemon twist.

The below ground cocktail lounge The Ostrich is opened Tues. – Sat. at 6pm. and is at 10 N. San Marcos Pl. Chandler 85225 http://www.crustrestaurants.com/ostrich

 

 

%d bloggers like this: